(director/writer: Aaron Schimberg; cinematographer: Wyatt Garfield; editor: Taylor Levy; music: Umberto Smerilli; cast: Sebastian Stan (Edward), Renate Reinsve (Ingrid), Miles G. Jackson (Sean), Neal Davidson (Corey), Patrick Wang (Director), Billy Griffith (Ollie), Adam Pearson (Oswald), Lawrence Arancio (Landlord); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Christine Vachon, Vanessa McDonnell, Gabriel Mayers; A24; 2024)

“A refreshingly diverting oddball film.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A dark comedy/psychodrama directed and written by Aaron Schimberg (“Chained For Life”/”Go Down Death”), telling us through its bleak story a person’s true worth can only be found within. It’s a refreshingly diverting oddball film, a parable whose true meaning may be open to question but not its intentions.

Living in a dank NYC apartment building, the lonely, reclusive wannabe actor (only getting a part in a public service documentary preaching tolerance for disfigured office workers), the shy Edward (Sebastian Stan), befriends his attractive quirky new neighbor, an aspiring playwright, Ingrid (Renate Reinsve, Norwegian actress). She says he reminds her of Woody Allen.

One day Edward has his disfigured appearance changed in a medical trial test that uses a radical new surgery for his craniofacial condition, that his doctor recommends for him.

With his face back to normal, he becomes a real estate agent and takes the name Guy.

The middle-aged man learns that Ingrid has written a play about their friendship when he was disfigured, which is currently rehearsing for its off-Broadway opening. He goes to the theater and tells her he wants to play himself in it, and will wear a mask of his old face.

But the arrival on the set of the dapper, cheerful and confident Brit, Oswald (Adam Pearson), changes things. He has the same facial condition but has no interest in surgery. Oswald becomes a contrast to the uptight Edward, as he lives with his handicap happily without making it a problem, and gets the part playing Edward.

Despite his disfigurement, Pearson plays the part in the play in a superior way.

The way people react negatively to Edward’s disfigured face, made up with a prosthetic, gives the thoughtful viewer a chance to re-think their views on beauty and in judging others by their appearance.

What the film fails to do is take a deep dive into Edward’s self-loathing and how the character never deals with that even when physically back to normal. 

It played at the Sundance Film Festival.

Sebastian Stan A Different Man